Tuesday, April 3, 2012

We were so wrong to believe at all

I got a chance to run Oak God against Fuz and I don't remember all the matchups, I do remember that he was playing zombies, in one match and in game one, I got 7 druids including a Gilt-Leaf! So I stole all his lands, tapping out.

He promptly swung at me for 15 with two zombies and a Soulless One that was the size of Jupiter. So...yeah. Maybe jumped the gun there, you know?

In game two, I got out two Adaptive Automatons and a Gilt-Leaf Archdruid, only to have them meet their demise at the hands of Nameless Inversion. Fuz's analysis: you need a way to keep your stuff on the board. Something like Steely Resolve naming druids would work.

Which leads me to an interesting point: my deck isn't interactive and his was. His suggestion to improve my deck was to force his deck to play my game, since my combo isn't faster than his deck, thus actually increasing the interactivity I have with the game. That is: stuff that I have or play that does something to the resources my opponent has or plays.

I saw this on Monday night too: Why isn't my midrange deck working, thedrowningman asked. And it was because all he had was cards to set up his board and nothing to make sure that he could get to the midgame in tact. I pulled four cards and said: These need to be Doom Blades or discard or something that slows down the opponent.

After some pondering, this is the basic outline I came up with:

Aggro strategy: minimal interactivity.
Midrange strategy: maximum interactivity.
Combo strategy: zero interactivity.

Things get muddled, of course (control-combo, aggro-midrange, blahblahblah) but those are the guideposts. If your combo deck is properly built, it is there to win faster than any other deck can win and to do that, it has to dedicate every resource it can to doing that: planning for what the opponent does is irrelevant and dilutes your strategy. Of course, everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face, so many combo decks try to pack some way to win through disruption.

If you're playing aggro, every resource goes towards the early game-turns 1-3, basically-so consistency is vital. However, because aggro strategies almost always rely on creatures, one has to plan on either a) finding a way around, (alternate victory path or reach, as described in this article) once the game goes to turn 4 and stalls, b) recovering from a global rest or c) disrupting the opponent so that s/he can be defeated. Because the aggro deck is pushing so hard in the early game, I find I don't need many cards to deal with the opponent's strategies: They're usually reeling from mine. But one well timed Naturalize or Lightning Bolt can break the game.

Finally, when playing a deck that needs to get to turn 4, that's when one needs the most cards to deal with the hand and/or board state. While there is a difference between running Thalia or running Cancel and Duress against combo the principle still remains: I am slowing you down so I can execute my strategy. But the same is true against aggro decks: Thalia can block/kill an otherwise efficient beater, Duress can snag the Lightning Bolt that would hasten your demise. But you need to plan for this, because otherwise the combo deck wins and the aggro deck has all but wrecked you.

This concept gets muddy because the best decks take elements of everything to synergize the cards and bring elements together. Good aggro decks may not look like combo decks but if the cards work in harmony with each other to a great enough extent, then aren't they really combo decks? Midrange decks are, as a result, tough to build because of the sheer number of options: What is going to be best against...everything?

And there is no skeleton key to that lock but they can be very successful (Jund and Bant decks being prime examples of such.) When they are successful, I've noticed that they layer synergies upon each other but they also always have a way to get to turn 4 by providing enough disruption that they can start to execute their own strategies.

As for Oak God, sure it can steal all the lands or have a tiny overrun. But I went with Denise Foliage to foil my opponent's removal-and to muck with their own buffs. It isn't perfect but it's old school and I like that. Steely Resolve could also work but then I would need at least two: one for my creatures and one to mess with my opponents' and that just seems inefficient.

So what happened?

Well, in one game my opponent didn't have an answer to my Gilt-Leaf Archdruid and when I stole all her lands, bringing Kamahl out to pump for victory was an easy choice.

But against a G/W sprits deck, I died because I wasn't paying attention. There were two Windborn Muses out and instead of stealing all her lands in order to pay for my attackers, I ended up tapping them in order to play more creatures in an attempt to get a Vitalize, untap, and use the new creatures to pay for Kamahl's ability. I saw my mistake as she swung for lethal in the air.

In a final matchup against stonethorn's Grimgrin/Hex Parasite combo deck, I couldn't get anything going. I drew too many lands and, despite being able to land a Dense Foliage, couldn't put enough pressure together to stop Grimgrin's march to death.

I could probably fix this but for now, I won't. What's the point? There's only two ways it could go: sucky so I don't have fun, or savage, so my opponents don't. Hitting the middle ground seems to be the right choice and I think I'm there.


  1. I think the druid deck is really inventive, and can do very nasty things to your opponent. And I think your analysis is generally spot-on.

    I'm also glad you're keeping a "fun" deck or two. :-)

  2. I can always pull out All Nightmare Long to bring the noise.